Some might label Rani Young unlucky. “[I was] born as a twin on Halloween,” the Chicago-based artist says in a statement about her moody work. It’s an admission that would spook even the most logical among us, but Rani is undeterred by the inauspicious circumstances surrounding her birth. “I see it as a gift,” she says, regarding her birthday as the serendipitous origin story behind her personal mythology.
“I have always been drawn to the idea of becoming a character, as well as finding and expressing my own unique identity,” she says of her figure work. “I often utilize self-portraiture as a way of changing costume and working out that identity.” Populated by shadowy figures, Rani’s work reflects the artist’s childhood interest in the cozy mysteries and detective novels that rose to prominence in the early 20th century. Raven-haired flappers in bell-shaped cloche hats lurk at the edges of her scarlet scenes, like characters in an Agatha Christie novel. Clad in black, they stand at the center of Rani’s personal mystery, acting as heroine, villainess, or somewhere in between.
“I loved to feel like I was unraveling some mystery,” Rani says, recalling her youthful fascination with Nancy Drew novels. Toggling between video, music, illustration, and painting, Rani approaches her projects with the same curiosity that fuels her passion for mystery. “I live and work in my art studio surrounded by the characters and scenes that originate in my mind and spill out onto my canvases, as if I am living within a book or a film,” she says, emphasizing the cinematic allure of her oil paintings. “My paintings have always felt like film stills.”
Like a doppelganger emerging from the shadows, Rani’s work is an apparition, a riddle waiting to be unraveled. Shifting between personas, she embraces the dark side of her identity, refusing to let the unknown haunt her against her will.
“I loved to feel like I was unraveling some mystery.” — Rani Young
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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